On the 8th of July 2020, Rick Magennis founder of Bearcat Media and Kate Eringa, key account manager at Commission Factory looked at how advertisers can go beyond the standard affiliate program and how going above and beyond can translate into results.
Since mid-March, we have seen many shoppers turn to online to do their shopping as well as to kill time. With advertisers’ online presence ever more important, they need to ensure the affiliate channel and all their digital channels are optimised. On last week’s webinar, we look at how advertisers can maximise their affiliate channel and broke it down into four sections: -
1. Under the hood
2. In the detail
3. Above and beyond banners
4. Creative Incentivising
1. Under the Hood
Understanding an advertiser inside out will allow affiliates to get a good grasp of what the advertiser stands for. It is important also to have a clear set of guidelines to set the affiliates up for success.
Brand Style Guidelines
We recommend the brand style guide to include logo variation, do’s and don'ts, colour palette and typography. It is essential for those advertisers who are brand conscious to have a one or two-pager PDF to upload to the Commission Factory dashboard. For super brand-conscious advertisers, they can be on the forefront and let affiliates know what is not allowed and what is on-brand, which can save future conversations around off-brand content or promotions.
Including up to date program statistics and reviewing this once a quarter will give the affiliates insight into how well the program or products are performing. The below statistics is the bare minimum to include and can be updated on the program description page in the Commission Factory dashboard or emailed through the message centre. The most important thing is to be transparent with the affiliates as affiliate marketing is based on trust and strong relationships with the affiliates.
- Average order value (AOV)
- Conversion rate (CR)
- Average Earnings Per Click - (EPC) (30-days and three months)
Social Media Guidelines
With content, cashback, comparison sites all using social channels to engage their users and complement website activity, it is suggested that advertisers provide a short social media guide outlining how they would like to be promoted on social channels. Things to include can be: -
- Words to use and not use
- Look and feel
- How to use Call-to-actions (CTA)
- How to use hashtags
- Providing imagery for each social media channel
The final element within “Under the hood” is a one-pager on Frequently Asked Questions. An FAQ document can unlock many questions the affiliates may have or even their member base, and therefore access to this document can reflect the needs of the audience, it could fuel blog content. It can showcase you are an authority and expert within your industry and cover a broad range of intent.
2. In the detail
The next step for the advertisers is to provide further detail on the product or service they are selling.
An essential requirement on the network is to provide the affiliates access to a product feed, also known as a datafeed, which advertisers can upload to the Commission Factory dashboard. For advertisers who have a Google Shopping feed, once the feed is optimised for their specific vertical, advertisers can upload this to the dashboard. Below are just some of the things to consider around product or service information, which advertisers can provide in the feed or the Current Promotions section can be added to the platform and made available to affiliates.
- Detailed product or service descriptions
- Full price and sale price
- Key features of all products or services
- Best Sellers product feed
- Product Releases
In the creative section, advertisers can upload Coupons or Promotions. They can be unique codes that a specific affiliate or program wide. They could be a timed offer that can last for a day or a week or month, which can be set in the dashboard.
Some examples of codes and promotions advertisers can offer are: -
- Affiliate Type-specific offers
- Unique Codes
- Timely offers
- Seasonal offers or promotions
- Bundled offers
- Spend and save
- Free Delivery
For advertisers that are not able to offer a coupon code, exclusive or generic, using the Promotions section of the dashboard, the affiliate can use customer added value benefits, e.g. Free Delivery and current on-site offers or exclusive product releases.
Technical brochures and charts
Although technical brochures and charts may not apply to all advertisers, for those who can, providing this is extremely useful for the more technical products where the customer needs that level of detail. Example might include electronics, sporting or camping and outdoor equipment. The more detail and information advertisers provide their affiliates, the easier it will be for them to sell the product.
Providing this information enables affiliates to put together more in-depth technical content that may serve a different audience than, for example, a price comparison website, a review or inspirational content blog post. For consumers wanting a more in-depth review to make their purchase decision, technical charts and brochures can help feed into an affiliate’s content.
3. Above and beyond banners
It can be easy to provide the basic banner requirements for the affiliate program, however, getting creative and providing assets outside the minimum requirements can benefit all in the long run. It allows advertisers and their affiliates to respond to last-minute campaigns or for affiliates to design banners that fit an affiliate's in-house style and complies with the brand guidelines.
When we first on-board an advertiser to Commission Factory, we ask them to provide a range of evergreen images to the platform; this refers to images that affiliates can use over many months. These images or banners will allow affiliates to use them when an advertiser is outside sales months or period. At a minimum, most programs will have a standard set of evergreen banners in the dashboard. We recommend advertisers to go to the next level and upload different logo variations, banners, lifestyle images or product images, which affiliates can resize or create banners or use on social media, adhering to the brand guidelines and social media guidelines in mind.
The Commission Factory platform can accept audio files, PDF documents, text files, Word Documents, GIF, JPEG, PNG, PowerPoint Presentations, Excel and video files up to a 100MB file size.
The IAB Australia's Online Advertising Expenditure Report released last month reported COVID-19 lockdown period created the ideal environment for video consumption(1) with video consumption up by 44% from the previous year (2). Therefore, making videos available during this time for affiliates to use, can benefit both the advertisers and more importantly, the consumers who are looking for this content. Below are a few examples of videos you can include.
- Pre-recorded testimonials about the product or service from customers
- Product reviews from customers
- Product demonstrations or how-to videos
- Daily vlog and upload it to YouTube
- Television commercials in market
The Commission Factory dashboard has a dedicated Video section where you can set a start and end date, set target URL, button colour and call-to-action. Therefore, advertisers can track video performance through the platform. Providing video content for your affiliates to use will differentiate your program from your competitors.
We recommend advertisers to make sales copy available that has already proven successful in other channels. It is a great way to set up affiliates for success, and it saves the affiliate time and gives them sales copy that is ready to send out to their members and converts well. Below are a few things advertisers can include.
- Landing page copy
- The top-performing subject lines, emails or landing pages
- Off limit topics & verbiage
An email to the affiliates via the message centre informing them that it is available in the dashboard can ensure that the affiliates are aware of it and are using it.
Provide affiliates with ideas and pieces of content they can use to create their unique content about the brand, such as the history of the company, the story behind the product, corporate responsibility projects or brand events. These can then be used by the affiliate for:
- Blog posts
Advertisers can supply prizes to run contests or competitions with affiliates for their member base. This could be used to raise awareness around a new product launch, a particular time of year or around the brand. A competition can help to create user-generated content, giving the prize the best content created, e.g. Instagram post using a specific hashtag or engaging with the brand on the affiliate’s site. Affiliates appreciate content ideas and direction, which will save time and give them content inspiration, as well as allow them to promote an advertiser differently.
4. Creative Incentivisation
There are many ways to encourage affiliates through innovative incentives or bonuses. Advertisers may want to consider bonus opportunities to activate newly recruited affiliates. Or to help drive sales for a specific promotion or product launch. Creating an added incentive for the publisher will help achieve goals. Some examples to consider:
- Cash bonus or prize for generating the most sales promoting free delivery (or sales event) during a campaign period
- Cash bonus or prize for generating the most sales of a particular product
- The best blog post about specific product launch or new season collection
- Product giveaway or store credit for reaching certain performance over a time period
- Cash bonus or product giveaway for reaching a certain range of milestones
- Affiliate competition – each sale/conversion is equal to one entry to win a prize.
- Make your first sale and get $XX bonus
- Cash bonus or competition entry for a blog post about your online store.
- Content milestones, e.g. For a 500-word blog post or a 3 min video affiliates get a $XXX bonus, following branding and social guidelines.
Affiliates are driving the performance of the program, so finding new ways to work and incentivise them will encourage a long-lasting relationship.
The Golden Standard
In Summary, fully equipping affiliates with the right tools and information will increase efficiency and allow advertisers to maximise every opportunity in the affiliate channel. Providing this additional info ensures:
- The affiliates know your business inside out
- Make sure affiliates understand the product or service
- Provide digital assets beyond the basic banner requirements
- Look at creative ways to incentivise affiliates outside the standard affiliate commission
We recommend advertisers to keep the information up-to-date and relevant, as well as inform affiliates that the information is available. Once in place, the affiliate program will stand out from the rest and truly go above and beyond.
Advertisers can upload all of the additional creative elements mentioned in the Commission Factory dashboard, under the Creative sections. For further information on the Media Library and Creative section, feel free to reach out to your Commission Factory account manager or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We have answered all questions below from the webinar below with responses from both Commission Factory (CF) and Bearcat Media (BM)
Do you have any data on how these different formats perform?
"The most popular and better converting are JPEGs and GIFs format-wise, not all websites can handle the load requirements for video, and in those scenarios, it can interfere with the user experience. Text links generally are the best performers on the network." CF
How can I see what creatives are performing well?
"Within the Commission Factory Dashboard, under Reports > creatives, both advertiser and affiliate have access to the creative performance report." CF
What are the biggest mistakes you have seen advertisers make?
"Lack of communication with publishers is a common mistake made by advertisers. Also, advertisers not viewing their publishers as a business. It is important to put yourself in the affiliate's shoes. Ask yourself before approaching an affiliate with a commercial proposition "if that were my business would that make sense to me". If the answer is no, why would you expect them to accept it?" CF
"Not committing 100% to the affiliate channel. They do not fully understand how it works and gets frustrated when the results are not quick. Because they do not understand it, they do not provide the affiliates with everything they need to be successful. If I were to choose one specific thing they do wrong, it is providing low-quality creatives." BM
Do you have a banner guide? Can I have some advice on designing banners?
"You can find the recommend and supported banner sizes in our help centre and any that cannot be uploaded under the Banner section of the dashboard, can be uploaded under the Media Library sections. You can also find information on creative best practice in our help centre " CF
Bearcat Media has made the following guide also available for Commission Factory Clients.
What content ideas would you say you have seen get the most success?
"The best content is the content that tells a story and that people can relate. It can be around the company ethos, the story behind the history of the company, how a product range came about, rather than content that is solely feature or benefits-focused. Look at how the content can relate to the audience, evoke emotion or help support the customer purchase decision - inspiring content, how-to, how the product or service can solve a problem for the consumer." CF
"When we accept affiliates into client accounts, we provide the best ways to get started and the best content to do so. First is a blog post and/or review of the product, then creating a short video, and then email promotions. All of them have an incentive tied to them to motivate the affiliates to develop them and promote." BM
Do you have any tips on recruitment of influencers? Many only want to work on paid posts, not signing up and working for commission.
"With influencers, you can look at a hybrid model of commission and paid posts with the potential to grow that relationship further down the line. It is also worth looking at micro-influencers, who are potentially more open to the above. There are also influencer platforms that work through the network that you can work with. There are different size influencers, some that may have PR agencies others that are individuals who are just starting or managing their influencer negotiations. Once again, it is not one size fits all, some influencers may work with brands based on sampling products, the part payment part commission or full payment. In the end, it needs to be a win-win scenario, and therefore, it is all down to finding what works for that influencer, understanding their content and slowly building a relationship. If the brand, product and service align to the influencer, then it is potentially something they may want to get involved in. It is not a one size fits all." CF
"Influencers should not be messaged the same way affiliates would be. Take the time to understand them and what they post and are interested in. Do not go in for the close immediately. Follow them, when you do reach out reference previous work that relates to your product and make it more personal and less of a sales pitch." BM
Some affiliates are aggregators, such as discount channels, as opposed to individuals. How do we offer aggregators something special?
"For aggregators, it depends on precisely the type of affiliate aggregator they are. If they are a subnetwork with their publishers, then providing them with a higher commission rate will help them to pass on more commission to the individual publishers and may get the advertiser promoted to their publisher base more prominently.
Some comparison aggregators are purely technical utilising APIs for their data. Therefore, ensuring that the content, promotions, offers and datafeeds in your account are of a high standard and always accurate will be most vital for affiliates as they are feeding that data through to other partners or their properties." CF
"I would recommend providing them dedicated coupon codes for them and their audiences only. That converts well, but I also recommend creating dedicated co-branded landed pages with the affiliates logo on it so that their traffic can build trust that everything is reputable." BM
How do you approach an affiliate?
"Any affiliate big or small should be approached on an individual basis where possible, rather than a one size fits all approach. Have clear in your mind why you want to contact that affiliate, how the affiliate can relate to your brand and what makes them stand out for you to want to approach them. Affiliate marketing and any time partnerships are about building a relationship with them and rapport and also about a win-win situation. With that in mind, you can reach out to them through the message centre and invite them through the platform. Relationships take time to nurture and finding what works for both may take some trial and error, so keep that in mind, affiliate/performance marketing is a long-term marketing strategy." CF
"Show that you've looked at the website or understand the proposition and say why you think it would be a good partnership, that's important, to demonstrate you've invested a level of effort in the first place. Be specific and not general, and be authentic. Being generic indirectly reads as insincere. Ask them a question or their opinion on your idea. " BM